Maureen Page and Jean Ede

Two sisters' recollections of life on the Home Front and evacuation to Wales.

Maureen and Jean

Maureen and Jean are sisters – they were aged five and eight years old when war broke out in September 1939, and recall the chaos which ensued after Chamberlain made the announcement. Maureen and Jean lived with their mother, their Nan and cousins, in a block of flats behind the New Cross Empire. Their father and two of their uncles were called up but the sisters were not frightened as they did not understand the severity of the situation. They recall that when the sirens sounded during raids it took a long time for her mother to try and round up the children as the flats were five stories high – by the time they evacuated the building the raids had usually finished! Maureen and Jean do not recall any of the women in their family working during the war years – although they knew that many worked at Woolwich Arsenal, none of their relatives undertook this type of work as they all had children to care for.

During the First World War, their grandfather had been a member of the Black Watch. Although their family rarely discussed any First World War memories Maureen and Jean have undertaken some research and are in the process of writing a book about their family history. Their father served with the Royal Artillery and was posted to Italy. They received letters from him and he visited them whilst they were evacuated to South Wales with their mother.

Evacuation

Maureen and Jean were not evacuated a part of a school programme but one organised through their local community. They travelled by train form Deptford and recall waiting to be billeted. Jean was sent to live with somebody who owned a sweetshop, and another sister was billeted to a ‘posh place’ – they recall seeing her ‘waving like the queen’. Maureen, her mother, aunt, sister and two brothers stayed on a farm. After a while their mother returned to London but the children stayed for two and a half years. Although they were billeted separately they did not feel isolated and saw each other regularly. The schooling was good and they learned to speak some Welsh. They were treated very well and returned to visit in later years. When they returned home after evacuation their accents could not be understood by their neighbours and school friends!  

Street parties

Maureen and Jean remember the celebratory street parties at the end of the war – Jean was invited to the cinema by a boy but her father said that she could not go as she was too young! They recall the communal shelter that they used in Deptford – there was a good sense of community spirit but they did not like the smell of antiseptic used to clean after raids.  Maureen also remembers the smell of the debris caused during raids, but her most powerful memory is the noise of the doodlebugs and the fear caused by them. When emerging from the shelters Jean wondered what had been destroyed and what was left undamaged. 

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 14/03/2012.

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